Monday, November 2, 2009

Big Bend National Park – Day 1 thru 3

We continued south through a couple small towns, lots of open desert, small desert canyons, and open vistas with larger mountains in the distance, seeing lots of Border Patrol vehicles along the way.  We finally entered Big Bend NP at Study Butte and took the Ross Maxwell Scenic Road turnoff to Cottonwood Campground.  We dropped a couple thousand feed as we drove the 21 miles and found ourselves in a pretty grass covered primitive campground along the Rio Grande River.  There are no hookups of any kind so we will be relying on our solar panels, and since there is no cell service we will rely on our satellite internet and TV for entertainment and connection to the outside world.  After setting up camp we kicked back and relaxed for the rest of the evening.  It was quite cool and the furnace ran a lot during the evening.


We awoke to a temperature of 27 degrees, but bright sunshine soon warmed the day.  We set out to explore by scooter.  Our first stop was the Castolon Visitor Center where we learned about the history of the area.  This area has always been sparsely populated.  Even Native Americans avoided the place.  It was not until the late 1800’s that some very hardy ranchers arrived in the area.


Our second stop was at the end of the road where the Rio Grande carved Santa Elena Canyon through the mountains.  The river was too high for us to take the trail into the canyon and we are hoping that the water levels drop before we leave so we can return.  It is supposed to be one of the highlights of the area.  The canyon itself is impressive.


We continued our ride back toward the main road, stopping at each of the roadside exhibits.  Some explained the geology of the area, telling of the volcanic origins of most of the land, then the uplifting and mountain building, followed by ongoing erosion that left what we see today.  It is not what I would call spectacular scenery, but it is interesting and very pretty.  The center of the park is in the Chisos Basin area of the almost 8,000 foot Chisos Mountains that dominate the area.  We will explore that area later.


Yesterday we took a hike to Mule Ears spring.  The hike was only about 4 miles, but it was hot and lacking shade all the way.  The area around the spring where we had our lunch was a real oasis in the desert.  The small stream from the spring disappeared into the wash within a couple hundred feet but along its banks and in the pools were bulrushes, cattails, frogs, tadpoles and dragon flies.  There were tall cottonwoods and many smaller trees.


Today we didn’t do much.  We did ride a few miles up the road to Tuff Canyon overlook.  We had stopped at the overlook two days ago but had only looked.  Today we took the trail down to the bottom of the canyon and hiked as far up it as we could without rock climbing.  It was a relatively short trip but just what we needed to get the kinks out after yesterday’s more strenuous hike.


The rest of the day we just sat around, played on the computer, read, watched TV, napped and watched wildlife.  There are several coyotes who call the campground home, as well as a herd of 15 or so javalina, several road runners, woodpeckers, and a great horned owl.  All are accustomed to people and will pose for photographs as long as you don’t get too close.  The campground is very peaceful since even generators are not allowed.  It is a quiet and pretty place to spend a few days.


Pictures are in the gallery.


  1. How are you liking the new dish? Does it also do your DirecTV? Is it just a mount or did the dish come with it?

  2. Don, Until I get a cable I am still using the tripod. I won't get to finish the install until we get to Denton. I can move my SD LNB bird on a wire mount to the new dish, but some guys are adding a homemade mount with the 3 head HD LNB that DirecTV is now using. I may try to do that.

  3. This is a location where you're glad you didn't try to convert to mobile phone-based internet. I guess with your lifestyle you'll have to stick with satellite.

  4. I take it all back. You saw a lot that we overlooked, as we didn't really like the place. Have you found the hot springs? That is all that I can remember liking, and, oh yes, watching people across the Rio Grande in Mexico.